While UK legislators contemplate relaxing our promo game laws, American prize game promoters never had it so bad.
Topic: Games of chance and skill
Who: Texas Attorney General and Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
When: May and July 2001
The US prize promotion industry is in turmoil following the severe tightening of "sweepstakes" (games of chance) restrictions and penalties in Florida and Texas. New Texan law applies both to promoters and, perhaps uniquely, to those who provide lists used for prize promotion mailings. Many common sweepstakes practices are criminalised and the fines can be, in the words of the Texas District Attorney, “enormous.” For instance, the sending of a mailing containing only one violation to a list of 1,700 people in Texas could result in a fine of up to (wait for it) $85,000,000, while a mailing containing 18 violations sent to 12,500 Texans would give rise to a minimum fine of $1,125,000,000! What’s more, list brokers may also be fined at the same levels if they provide the list used for the violating mailing.
The Texas Attorney general’s office apologises for the strict new law, but blames a few reckless operators for making the measures necessary.
In Florida, it is not a question of new laws, but suddenly stricter interpretation of existing measures. For example, where promotional game operators were previously only required to lodge their rules with the authorities some time, even a day, before launch, now the minimum is seven days before launch. Also it is now clear that failure to award prizes is unlawful and rules must provide ways of awarding unclaimed prizes. And winners' lists lodged must contain the specific date on which all prizes were awarded plus a complete description and retail value for each prize.
Why this matters:
Our own Advertising Standards Authority case reports reveal increasing numbers of "complaint upheld" findings in respect of misleading prize event promotions. If our own prize event promoters are to avoid the type of heavy regulatory cosh under which Florida and Texas game operators are now forced to operate, they must sharpen up their act.